Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Friday 3rd August


Female / juvenile-type Mandarin – Felbrigg Lake. My first here since late March

Yesterday I spent the morning cleaning out my garden pond, visiting the village pond and, in between times, attempting to photograph the last remaining two Swifts along The Street. After lunch I went to see the guys at the Woodyard – the selection of butterflies on the nearby Buddleia was impressive, including: Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Comma, Red Admiral, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Gatekeeper, Large & Green-veined White, Holly Blue, Purple Hairstreak and Silver-washed Fritillary. An incredible sight! At the lake, I failed to catch up with the Lesser Emperor, which Simon had seen in the morning, but I did see Green Sandpiper, which flew around the lake calling before landing in Boathouse Bay. I was just coming away, when the duck flotilla appeared from the bank, including the female / juvenile-type Mandarin – my first here since the end of March.

Grab-shot of Green Sandpiper making a touch-down – Felbrigg Lake


A nice composition of Ruddy Darter – near the bottom sluice


and a rather tatty Emperor – good to see close-up all the same



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Thursday 2nd August


A little worn and faded but exquisite nonetheless – White Admiral, The Street, Aylmerton

I never cease to be amazed at just how good our lane is for wildlife. True, it’s changed in character over the past couple of years, with the habitat destruction on the adjacent Aylmerton Common and, more recently, the installation of a string of ugly telegraph poles carrying optic-fibre cable to Felbrigg Hall, but it remains a haven for wildlife. As well as a host of more common farmland birds, in the past I’ve seen rarer species like Ring Ouzel, Whinchat, Osprey and Cattle Egret, in the quarter mile length from the village to the park. Insect-life is abundant – yesterday I counted no fewer than eight Holly Blue before reaching the back-gate, not to mention the Painted Lady on Buddleia by the pumping station or the Purple Hairstreak of a few days ago, near Sawmill Cottage. But imagine my delight yesterday, as I approached the Woodyard – there in the hedge, feeding on Bramble, was an exquisite White Admiral! Perhaps we should seek to get this stretch of The Street declared a Roadside Nature Reserve?

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Wednesday 1st August


Male Banded Demoiselle – Felbrigg Lake

Following the recent rains, we had a short-notice work-party at Sustead Common yesterday, to make a start on deepening the winter scrape so that, in an average summer, it might retain some water. We also installed some silt traps in the field drain which supplies the scrape. Our work was accompanied by the constant song of a near-by Yellowhammer. The weather returned to it’s current regular pattern of clear skies and hot sun in the afternoon, so I took a leisurely stroll around the lake. A Red Kite drifted high over The Great Wood, as I entered the park, but the water meadow held very little of note, except the cattle, which behave more like Water Buffalo, penetrating deeper into the marsh each passing day. This could of course be contributing to the lack of birds. The lake is surprisingly free of surface weed, which has been a feature of the past month or so. Wildfowl, most still in eclipse, included a female Gadwall, two Shoveler and a female Tufted Duck – but no sign of the recent Mandarin, which I’ve managed to miss so far. The winter plumage Little Grebe was again present in Boathouse Bay, but, according to Lee, is a different bird than the one he saw a week ago, which was in full summer plumage. A probable Migrant Hawker on the ‘dragonfly meadow’ between the Forge and the lake provided insect interest, as did the male Banded Demoiselle by the bottom sluice. Coming back up the lane I managed to find a solitary Swift – the rest of the village population appear to have departed already.

Cattle penetrating deep into the vegetation on the water meadow


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Sunday 29th July


Little Grebe on Felbrigg Lake – last seen in mid-April

In between preparations for the village fete yesterday and the event itself, I did manage a walk through Felbrigg, in the faint hope that the over-night storms might have produced something of interest. There were very few birds on the water-meadows – certainly no waders and not much more on the lake. The best bird being a winter plumage Little Grebe which, as I approached, flew from the south east corner towards the reed-bed. I’ve not seen one here since mid-April. Whilst I was watching it from the dam wall a rather tatty Purple Hairstreak kept me entertained in the Walnut tree above. A few Sand Martin, together with the resident House Martins and Swifts were over the lake. On the way back home a Tawny Owl called loudly from village gardens along The Street.

Not a view you often get of Little Grebe


A rather tatty Purple Hairstreak in the Walnut tree along the dam


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Friday 27th July


Common Blue – Felbrigg

It’s been a busy few days, what with the NWT Dragonfly id workshop on Tuesday and footbridge construction and erection on Wednesday – see this link. In between times, I have managed a couple of outings into the park, where the main interest has again been on insects. The second emergence of Holly Blue is underway – I’ve seen them in reasonable numbers, down the lane, in the park and at Sustead Common. For comparison, I did manage a photo of Common Blue in Felbrigg yesterday and I did see my first Red-eyed Damselfly of the season at the lake. Bird interest has again mostly centred on the lake. With a Green Sandpiper in Boathouse Bay and a small group of Teal, which made a brief stop-over yesterday morning. I missed Mark’s two female-type Mandarin, which he reported in the evening, though. Today, it’s preparation for the Aylmerton village fete, where the Bird Club and Felbeck Trust have a stand – do stop by tomorrow and see us, 3.00 – 7.00.

Holly Blue – with it’s much plainer, ink-splattered, underwing. The Street,¬†Aylmerton


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Tuesday 24th July


A pair of Common Emerald doing the business, Upton Fen

We spent the weekend helping move one of our sons and his partner into their new home near Huntingdon. Managed to get back for Carol’s ‘significant number’ birthday party and spent a lot of the evening watching a ‘flutter’ of Purple Hairstreak in Phil’s neighbours garden. Yesterday was our Cley NWT day – plenty of waders coming and going but no sign of the Temminck’s Stint that had been present over the previous few days. This morning I had a quick walk around the lake – little of any real wildlife interest to report. This afternoon I attended a dragonfly identification workshop at Upton Fen, run by Dr Pam Taylor, as part of the NWT’s Wildlife in Common training programme. We managed to find and identify ten different species.

 Male Ruddy Darter at Upton Fen Рnote the all dark legs


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Thursday 19th July


Female Common Darter, Felbrigg Park

Yesterday was the NENBC mid-week walk. We had 40+ bird species, the best of which was the family party of Spotted Flycatcher, in the wooded area west of the lake. There was no sign of the three, possibly four, Green Sandpiper I’d had over the lake on Tuesday evening. This morning, again no Sandpipers – the only real interest coming in the form of wildfowl /water birds. There was a female Tufted Duck – replacing the male of a couple of days ago, two eclipse Teal and a squealing Water Rail in the reed-bed. This is the third successive year that Water Rail have been recorded in the summer months, but we still don’t have firm evidence of breeding. Still plenty of insects about, with more Gatekeeper emerging and an increasing number of Common Darter. I saw my first Common Blue of 2018 on the mid-week walk and a couple more sightings of Purple Hairstreak around the Oaks near The Woodyard, on the walk home.

One of two eclipse Teal on Felbrigg lake – an uncommon visitor at this time of year